JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Goodbye to all that

Essendon's Dyson Heppell.

Essendon's Dyson Heppell. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

The AFL is used to being unable to please much of its public all the time, or in some cases, any time. And never is that more the case than when it comes to fixturing.

An uneven draw, in which teams play only five rivals twice and the other dozen just once, creates a virtual handicap system in itself. Throw in contractual obligations to various venues for certain ''blockbusters'' and the difficulty factor increases again.

These days, in addition, there's the matter of the mid-season bye, which, judging by the club and player reaction currently being assessed before it goes to the AFL Commission, seems more than likely to become two byes per club in 2014 rather than the current one.

And that could open a whole new can of worms - for a fan base that has been getting itchy feet these past couple of weeks, reduced to six games per round, and more importantly, the same clubs agitating for an extra week off.

Because recent history indicates strongly that the matter of exactly when you have your break is significant, with the 2011 season - when with 17 teams at least one club per round had a week off - providing an interesting case study.

When Gold Coast entered the competition (the year before Greater Western Sydney), the AFL entered territory it hadn't known (an uneven number of teams) since Adelaide became part of the AFL in 1991, and for four years gave us a 15-team league. It decided to stagger the byes for 2011 as best it could, in a 24-round season having 19 rounds in which just one team had a break, and another five in which three sides sat it out.

What became apparent was that to have the break around mid-season proved perfect, but early on or late in the piece was a significant disadvantage. Indeed, over the first 13 rounds, and 14 games in which a side coming off a week's break took on a team that had played through, the side that had had the weekend off won just two.

That changed dramatically, however, in the cold and wet of late June and July. Between rounds 14 and 18, of seven games played between a rested side and one that played through, the team with the rest won six. And that was turned on its head again in the lead-up to finals, when the break only seemed to disrupt any momentum. From round 19 to 24, there were eight such games, the team that had played through earning seven wins over sides that had spelled.

They're pretty lopsided counts. And ones which the bye formula these past two seasons - of three weeks of just six games between rounds 11 and 13 - seem to have addressed.

Last year, there were 12 games played during and immediately after the bye rounds in which a side coming off a week's break faced up to one that had played on, the results an even split of 6-6. And not one of them was a result that didn't go the way form indicated it should.

The fixture also managed to minimise the lopsidedness of preparation, with several sides both coming off the byes playing each other.

Last week, there were four games involving a rested side and one that had played on, with three victories to those that had spelled. Again, none of those results was unexpected, though Hawthorn's strong finish against Carlton, and the Western Bulldogs' much better second half against Collingwood after looking likely to be humiliated indicated they'd both appreciated the break.

From an aesthetics point of view, meanwhile, the AFL has always been on a hiding to nothing when it comes to mid-season.

When eight games were the norm, it tried virtually every combination of games over a two-week period. There were several years with either a 5-3 or 6-2 split. In 2004, it scheduled just the one game in week two of break-time, mainly in reaction to the outcry after the previous year, in which there was a complete week's break for all 16 teams. That is something those now moaning about the allegedly dull past couple of weeks would do well to remember. And when it comes to maintaining interest in the AFL competition overall, the past couple of weeks have hardly been duds.

Indeed, AFL general manager of broadcasting, scheduling and legal affairs, Simon Lethlean, points out that last Saturday night's Essendon-Gold Coast clash at Etihad Stadium was the first Saturday night game this season to attract more than a million TV viewers.

''We think the three rounds of six games is the best model for maintaining the momentum of the season, better than the other combinations we've tried,'' he says.

''There's a lot of things to consider, requirements like two clubs not playing each other twice before round 11, in amongst all the other factors, like venue availability, player welfare and club requests, and in which we can still minimise the inequities.''

If the AFL Commission does go with the push for two byes in 2014, the most likely solution is to start the season a week earlier by scaling back the duration of the pre-season NAB Cup.

While cricket obligations have previously limited the number of venues that can be used in March, AFL football's involvement with Adelaide Oval and the new lights at Geelong's Simonds Stadium have offered some greater flexibility.

If the two byes are to be introduced, the most likely arrangement would be two lots of the current mid-season schedule, with three lots of six matches to be played between rounds 7-9 and again between rounds 14-16.

But if the clubs and players lobbying for an extra week off win their campaign, they'd be well advised to then bone up on the recent history of the impact of the bye on AFL football. Because the numbers say it's not just getting a rest that counts, but just as much when you get it.

3 comments

  • Particularly irritating are players who call for a shorter H&A^ season, with some demanding a 17- or 18-game season, yet never accompany such demands with suggestions of what commensurate paycut they would happily take. (Nor how they would productively fill in even more spare time.)

    Nor any inkling of how corporate support for the game would be cut back, let alone the cruel decrease in the pleasures of football to millions of members, barrackers and fans.

    Stop sooking and grow up. Or eff off.

    ^ Don't mind "regular season" now and then for a bit of variety in sentence or paragraph structure, but our term is "Home and Away season". (And, no, this observation is NOT predicated on some brain-dead PC anti-Americanism.)

    Commenter
    40 Degrees S
    Date and time
    June 23, 2013, 2:09PM
    • Back again - forgot to ask this.

      Whose bright idea was it to start AFL matches within 30 minutes of sunset in the week of the shortest day of the year? What part of "maximising attendances" does this drongo not understand?

      Commenter
      Leonard Colquhoun
      Date and time
      June 23, 2013, 4:19PM
      • Whilst only some clubs pay each other twice, the competion will never be even/equal....always going to be lopsided!

        Get rid of NAB Cup or what ever it is called, play each other twice, the comp will then be even, clubs can also start resting players....PS there supposed to be fit anyway, not all payers play 4 quarters anyway.

        If players want time off/byes, then start bringing in performance rates, or penalties for non-performance.

        Commenter
        uneik
        Date and time
        June 23, 2013, 6:11PM
        Comments are now closed

        2014 Home and Away

        Round 1
        Fri, 14 MarTimes shown AEDT
        COL 46 vs FRE 116 Report Stats
        Sat, 15 MarTimes shown AEDT
        GWS 99 vs SYD 67 Report Report Stats
        GCF 87 vs RIC 69 Report Stats
        Sun, 16 MarTimes shown AEDT
        CAR 87 vs PTA 120 Report Stats
        Thu, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
        GEE 119 vs ADE 81 Report Stats
        Fri, 21 MarTimes shown AEDT
        NTH 60 vs ESS 99 Report Stats
        Sat, 22 MarTimes shown AEDT
        HAW 139 vs BRI 91 Report Stats
        STK 68 vs MEL 51 Report Stats
        Sun, 23 MarTimes shown AEDT
        WCE 134 vs WBU 69 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 2
        Thu, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
        RIC 98 vs CAR 86 Report Stats
        Fri, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
        ESS 86 vs HAW 90 Report Stats
        Sat, 29 MarTimes shown AEDT
        STK 95 vs GWS 88 Stats
        PTA 127 vs ADE 73 Report Stats
        FRE 87 vs GCF 39 Report Stats
        SYD 69 vs COL 89 Report Stats
        Sun, 30 MarTimes shown AEDT
        BRI 68 vs GEE 93 Stats
        MEL 30 vs WCE 123 Report Stats
        WBU 54 vs NTH 83 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 3
        Fri, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
        HAW 137 vs FRE 79 Report Stats
        Sat, 05 AprTimes shown AEDT
        WBU 100 vs RIC 98 Report Stats
        ADE 71 vs SYD 134 Report Stats
        GCF 114 vs BRI 61 Stats
        WCE 83 vs STK 58 Report Stats
        COL 76 vs GEE 87 Report Stats
        Sun, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
        GWS 79 vs MEL 47 Report Stats
        NTH 97 vs PTA 90 Report Stats
        ESS 138 vs CAR 57 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 4
        Fri, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
        RIC 72 vs COL 110 Report Stats
        Sat, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
        CAR 58 vs MEL 81 Report Stats
        PTA 159 vs BRI 46 Report Stats
        GWS 83 vs WBU 110 Report Stats
        GEE 107 vs WCE 32 Report Stats
        GCF 49 vs HAW 148 Report Stats
        Sun, 13 AprTimes shown AEST
        SYD 48 vs NTH 91 Report Stats
        STK 50 vs ADE 136 Report Stats
        FRE 113 vs ESS 60 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 5
        Thu, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
        BRI 63 vs RIC 106 Report Stats
        Sat, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
        COL 93 vs NTH 58 Report Stats
        SYD 92 vs FRE 75 Report Stats
        WCE 56 vs PTA 70 Report Stats
        ESS 65 vs STK 81 Report Stats
        Sun, 20 AprTimes shown AEST
        ADE 137 vs GWS 72 Report Stats
        MEL 78 vs GCF 86 Report Stats
        WBU 91 vs CAR 119 Report Stats
        Mon, 21 AprTimes shown AEST
        GEE 106 vs HAW 87 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 6
        Fri, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
        COL 83 vs ESS 60 Report Stats
        STK 79 vs BRI 82 Report Stats
        FRE 61 vs NTH 74 Report Stats
        Sat, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
        GCF 134 vs GWS 94 Report Stats
        CAR 92 vs WCE 89 Report Stats
        MEL 38 vs SYD 69 Report Stats
        Sun, 27 AprTimes shown AEST
        WBU 83 vs ADE 92 Report Stats
        RIC 52 vs HAW 118 Report Stats
        PTA 107 vs GEE 67 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 7
        Fri, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
        CAR 70 vs COL 104 Report Stats
        Sat, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
        HAW 175 vs STK 30 Report Stats
        GWS 97 vs PTA 132 Report Stats
        ADE 67 vs MEL 70 Report Stats
        BRI 44 vs SYD 123 Stats
        ESS 73 vs WBU 65 Report Stats
        Sun, 04 MayTimes shown AEST
        NTH 77 vs GCF 120 Report Stats
        GEE 81 vs RIC 76 Report Stats
        WCE 54 vs FRE 73 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 8
        Fri, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
        SYD 107 vs HAW 88 Report Stats
        Sat, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
        PTA 94 vs FRE 76 Report Stats
        BRI 57 vs ESS 65 Report Stats
        MEL 83 vs WBU 99 Report Stats
        Sun, 11 MayTimes shown AEST
        WCE 188 vs GWS 77 Report Stats
        Mon, 12 MayTimes shown AEST
        STK 69 vs CAR 101 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 9
        Thu, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
        ADE 76 vs COL 55 Report Stats
        Fri, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
        ESS 64 vs SYD 114 Report Stats
        Sat, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
        RIC 74 vs MEL 91 Report Stats
        NTH 125 vs BRI 38 Report Stats
        FRE 96 vs GEE 64 Report Stats
        Sun, 18 MayTimes shown AEST
        STK 87 vs GCF 125 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 10
        Fri, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
        GEE 111 vs NTH 91 Report Stats
        Sat, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
        GWS 41 vs RIC 154 Report Stats
        COL 109 vs WCE 101 Report Stats
        PTA 100 vs HAW 86 Report Stats
        Sun, 25 MayTimes shown AEST
        GCF 119 vs WBU 74 Report Stats
        CAR 81 vs ADE 76 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 11
        Thu, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
        SYD 148 vs GEE 38 Report Stats
        Fri, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
        STK 54 vs COL 140 Report Stats
        Sat, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
        MEL 75 vs PTA 95 Report Stats
        BRI 98 vs CAR 91 Report Stats
        ESS 104 vs RIC 54 Report Stats
        Sun, 01 JunTimes shown AEST
        ADE 109 vs GCF 77 Report Stats
        WBU 51 vs FRE 89 Report Stats
        HAW 94 vs GWS 87 Report Stats
        WCE 44 vs NTH 82 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 12
        Fri, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
        GEE 107 vs CAR 102 Report Stats
        Sat, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
        HAW 123 vs WCE 79 Report Stats
        PTA 129 vs STK 59 Report Stats
        WBU 87 vs BRI 95 Report Stats
        GWS 66 vs ESS 81 Report Stats
        Sun, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
        GCF 74 vs SYD 109 Report Stats
        FRE 90 vs ADE 50 Report Stats
        NTH 116 vs RIC 88 Report Stats
        Mon, 09 JunTimes shown AEST
        MEL 28 vs COL 61 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 13
        Fri, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
        CAR 90 vs HAW 118 Report Stats
        Sat, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
        RIC 85 vs FRE 105 Report Stats
        SYD 98 vs PTA 94 Report Stats
        WCE 103 vs GCF 100 Report Stats
        BRI 80 vs GWS 125 Report Stats
        ADE 109 vs NTH 73 Report Stats
        Sun, 15 JunTimes shown AEST
        GEE 133 vs STK 37 Report Stats
        COL 98 vs WBU 106 Report Stats
        ESS 77 vs MEL 78 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 14
        Fri, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
        RIC 51 vs SYD 62 Report Stats
        Sat, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
        PTA 128 vs WBU 56 Report Stats
        HAW 115 vs COL 86 Report Stats
        GCF 118 vs GEE 78 Report Stats
        FRE 105 vs BRI 22 Report Stats
        ESS 101 vs ADE 92 Report Stats
        Sun, 22 JunTimes shown AEST
        GWS 100 vs CAR 92 Report Stats
        STK 70 vs WCE 103 Report Stats
        MEL 66 vs NTH 107 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 15
        Fri, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
        GEE 89 vs ESS 80 Report Stats
        Sat, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
        HAW 116 vs GCF 63 Report Stats
        STK 73 vs RIC 117 Report Stats
        FRE 88 vs WCE 81 Report Stats
        SYD 106 vs GWS 60 Stats
        BRI 70 vs NTH 66 Report Stats
        Sun, 29 JunTimes shown AEST
        WBU 91 vs MEL 85 Report Stats
        ADE 99 vs PTA 76 Report Stats
        COL 91 vs CAR 76 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 16
        Fri, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
        NTH 108 vs HAW 88 Report Stats
        Sat, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
        RIC 79 vs BRI 54 Stats
        GWS 72 vs ADE 140 Report Stats
        GCF 80 vs COL 75 Report Stats
        MEL 34 vs FRE 97 Report Stats
        PTA 60 vs ESS 62 Report Stats
        Sun, 06 JulTimes shown AEST
        CAR 151 vs STK 66 Report Stats
        WCE 51 vs SYD 79 Report Stats
        GEE 69 vs WBU 56 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 17
        Fri, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
        ADE 92 vs HAW 104 Report Stats
        Sat, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
        MEL 36 vs GEE 102 Report Stats
        NTH 92 vs STK 33 Report Stats
        WBU 94 vs GCF 66 Report Stats
        BRI 64 vs WCE 76 Report Stats
        SYD 122 vs CAR 51 Report Stats
        Sun, 13 JulTimes shown AEST
        RIC 126 vs PTA 106 Report Stats
        ESS 103 vs COL 39 Report Stats
        FRE 136 vs GWS 60 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 18
        Fri, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
        CAR 109 vs NTH 86 Report Stats
        Sat, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
        STK 118 vs FRE 60 Report Stats
        GWS 87 vs GEE 94 Report Stats
        Sun, 20 JulTimes shown AEST
        PTA 72 vs MEL 69 Report Stats
        WBU 94 vs ESS 101 Report Stats
        Fri, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
        WCE 42 vs RIC 59 Report Stats
        Sat, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
        BRI 110 vs GCF 56 Report Stats
        HAW 104 vs SYD 94 Report Stats
        Sun, 27 JulTimes shown AEST
        COL 82 vs ADE 98 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 19
        Thu, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
        FRE 83 vs CAR 78 Report Stats
        Fri, 01 AugTimes shown AEST
        SYD 79 vs ESS 57 Report Stats
        Sat, 02 AugTimes shown AEST
        ADE 105 vs WCE 136 Report Stats
        RIC 89 vs GWS 62 Report Stats
        GCF 117 vs STK 64 Report Stats
        NTH 79 vs GEE 111 Report Stats
        Sun, 03 AugTimes shown AEST
        MEL 51 vs BRI 74 Stats
        HAW 107 vs WBU 45 Report Stats
        COL 76 vs PTA 70 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 20
        Fri, 08 AugTimes shown AEST
        RIC 95 vs ESS 77 Report Stats
        Sat, 09 AugTimes shown AEST
        GWS 51 vs NTH 126 Report Stats
        CAR 97 vs GCF 58 Report Stats
        HAW 115 vs MEL 65 Report Stats
        PTA 58 vs SYD 84 Report Stats
        GEE 81 vs FRE 79 Report Stats
        Sun, 10 AugTimes shown AEST
        BRI 63 vs ADE 168 Report Stats
        STK 99 vs WBU 122 Report Stats
        WCE 126 vs COL 66 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 21
        Fri, 15 AugTimes shown AEST
        CAR 76 vs GEE 82 Report Stats
        Sat, 16 AugTimes shown AEST
        SYD 127 vs STK 56 Stats
        GCF 47 vs PTA 56 Report Stats
        ESS 77 vs WCE 74 Report Stats
        COL 56 vs BRI 123 Report Stats
        ADE 69 vs RIC 79 Report Stats
        Sun, 17 AugTimes shown AEST
        NTH 111 vs WBU 61 Report Stats
        MEL 34 vs GWS 98 Report Stats
        FRE 110 vs HAW 91 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 22
        Fri, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
        PTA 140 vs CAR 37 Report Stats
        Sat, 23 AugTimes shown AEST
        NTH 101 vs ADE 94 Report Stats
        ESS 108 vs GCF 89 Report Stats
        GWS 67 vs COL 75 Report Stats
        WCE 119 vs MEL 53 Report Stats
        HAW 94 vs GEE 71 Report Stats
        Sun, 24 AugTimes shown AEST
        BRI 48 vs FRE 106 Report Stats
        WBU 67 vs SYD 130 Report Stats
        RIC 98 vs STK 72 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 23
        Fri, 29 AugTimes shown AEST
        COL 56 vs HAW 121 Stats
        Sat, 30 AugTimes shown AEST
        CAR 90 vs ESS 90 Stats
        FRE 105 vs PTA 97 Stats
        SYD 65 vs RIC 68 Stats
        NTH 123 vs MEL 93 Stats
        GEE 143 vs BRI 81 Stats
        Sun, 31 AugTimes shown AEST
        GCF 99 vs WCE 151 Stats
        ADE 141 vs STK 62 Stats
        WBU 109 vs GWS 115 Stats
        View All Fixtures
        AFL Finals Round 1
        Fri, 05 SepTimes shown AEST
        HAW 104 vs GEE 68 Report Stats
        Sat, 06 SepTimes shown AEST
        SYD 93 vs FRE 69 Stats
        NTH 93 vs ESS 81 Report Stats
        Sun, 07 SepTimes shown AEST
        PTA 132 vs RIC 75 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        AFL Finals Round 2
        Fri, 12 SepTimes shown AEST
        GEE 92 vs NTH 98 Stats
        Sat, 13 SepTimes shown AEST
        FRE 83 vs PTA 105 Stats
        View All Fixtures
        AFL Finals Round 3
        Fri, 19 SepTimes shown AEST
        SYD 136 vs NTH 65 Report Stats
        Sat, 20 SepTimes shown AEST
        HAW 97 vs PTA 94 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        AFL Finals Round 4
        Sat, 27 SepTimes shown AEST
        SYD 74 vs HAW 137 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        AFL Home and Away
        Overall standings
        Team P W L D % Pts
        Sydney Swans 22 17 5 0 142.88 68
        Hawthorn 22 17 5 0 140.78 68
        Geelong Cats 22 17 5 0 113.77 68
        Fremantle 22 16 6 0 130.40 64
        Port Adelaide 22 14 8 0 129.92 56
        North Melbourne 22 14 8 0 117.04 56
        Essendon 22 12 9 1 106.34 50
        Richmond 22 12 10 0 105.77 48
        View all
         
        Win an iPad mini by entering our Sport survey
        Featured advertisers